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Africa: Daily HIV/Aids Report

Politics and Policy

House Foreign Affairs Committee Approves Global Poverty Measure

[Aug 01, 2007]

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Tuesday approved by voice vote a bill (HR 1302) that would make it a stated U.S. policy to reduce poverty worldwide, CQ Today reports. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), would require the U.S. to develop a strategy to fight global poverty with the aim of reducing by half the number of people between 1990 and 2015 who live on less than $1 daily. Components of the strategy would include sustained investment in U.S. initiatives on HIV/AIDS and malaria, as well as the Millennium Challenge Account and the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, according to CQ Today (Gensheimer, CQ Today, 7/31).

The bill also would require the president to establish a foreign aid policy that incorporates all agencies administering such aid. The measure would use the U.N. Millennium Development Goals -- which include reducing the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and eradicating poverty and hunger -- as a guideline to meet its targets. In addition, the measure would require the State Department to provide Congress with annual progress reports (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/31). The bill also would include strategies for improving development aid; expanding debt relief; leveraging trade policy and the role of businesses; and coordinating global poverty reduction with other development goals, including fighting the spread of diseases (CQ Today, 7/31).

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Science & Medicine

Gates Foundation Gives Institute of Human Virology $15M Grant for Research on HIV Vaccine, Maryland Gov. O'Malley Announces

[Aug 01, 2007]

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland's School of Medicine a five-year, $15 million grant to develop a potential HIV vaccine, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) announced Tuesday, the Washington Post reports (Rein, Washington Post, 8/1).

According to the AP/Forbes, the grant is part of the Gates Foundation's Collaboration for AIDS Vaccine Discovery, an international network of researchers focused on developing a safe and effective vaccine. The grant will support a public-private partnership among the institute, Wyeth and Profectus BioSciences. Profectus was created in 2003 to develop and commercialize technology developed by the institute, the AP/Forbes reports.

Dave Wilkins, Chief Operating Officer at the institute, said the first grant payment, which will be about $2.1 million, is expected to be available in two or three weeks. It will be used for equipment maintenance, salaries of about 10 to 15 researchers and supplies, according to the AP/Forbes (Witte, AP/Forbes, 7/31). Robert Gallo, founder and director of the institute, said that he expects the grant to expand his research on a possible HIV vaccine that he has tested successfully on monkeys.

The vaccine candidate works by intercepting the virus before it can enter the body's cells and attack the immune system's response to an infection, the Post reports. It would give antibodies the best chance of working against the various strains of HIV, Gallo said at a press conference in Annapolis, Md. The vaccine candidate also has the potential to eliminate HIV from infected cells, according to Gallo. "We have a vaccine candidate that we think is extremely interesting and unique in its properties," Gallo said. He added that he hopes to begin clinical trials next year (Washington Post, 8/1).

Albert Reece, dean of the Maryland School of Medicine, said, "Seeing the end of HIV/AIDS is still a dream," but Gallo's research is a "positive step toward seeing that dream come through." O'Malley said efforts such as this could help the U.S. "unleash the weapons of salvation" and increase Maryland's efforts to become a center of biotechnology. A Gates Foundation spokesperson was not available for comment, according to the Baltimore Sun (Bor, Baltimore Sun, 8/1).

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Global Challenges

Young Girls Trafficked From Nepal to India for Commercial Sex Work Emerging as HIV/AIDS Risk Factor, Study Says

[Aug 01, 2007]

Young women and girls who have been repatriated to Nepal after being trafficked to India for commercial sex work are emerging as an HIV/AIDS risk factor, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the New York Times reports.

The study was conducted by Jay Silverman, a professor of human development at Harvard's School of Public Health, and colleagues. It was funded by the State Department's Office of Trafficking in Persons, as well as Harvard and Boston University. Silverman examined medical records of 287 former sex workers who had been rescued and repatriated between 1997 and 2005 by the Katmandu, Nepal-based charity Maiti Nepal, or Nepali Mother's Home. Most of the young women and girls had been sent home by Indian advocacy groups working with police. The study found that 38% of the participants tested positive for HIV. Among the 33 girls in the study who were trafficked into sex work before age 15, 61% tested positive for HIV, the researchers found.

According to Aurorita Mendoza, a former Nepal coordinator for UNAIDS, when girls return to their home countries, they might be ostracized by their families and villages because of fear that they either will pressure other girls to enter the trade or ruin the village's reputation. This often leads the returning girls to continue commercial sex work, the Times reports. Silverman said these women also might become pregnant, and because they cannot access antiretroviral treatment, they transmit HIV to their infants. According to the study, the youngest girls also tended to have worked in numerous establishments for more than one year, which also increased their risk of contracting HIV.

According to Silverman, owners of sex work establishments pay double for young girls and increase the price they charge customers to have sex with them. He added that owners "sometimes presen[t] them as virgins" because men sometimes think young girls have fewer diseases, or they believe a common myth in some countries that sex with a virgin can cure HIV/AIDS, the Times reports.

Silverman said about 50% of the women and girls in the study were promised work as maids or in restaurants before going to India. Some were invited to visit family or make pilgrimages and then sold to establishment owners by relatives, while some went to marry men in India. Others were drugged and kidnapped, sometimes by older women who offered them a cup of tea or a soft drink in a public market or train station, Silverman said. Mendoza said some girls enter the sex trade knowingly because of poverty (McNeil, New York Times, 8/1).

Reaction

"The repatriation of Nepalese survivors of sex trafficking may play a critical role in spreading HIV across South Asian borders," Silverman said, adding, "They are extremely vulnerable to being coerced into unsafe sexual behavior and being retrafficked for sexual exploitation, either within Nepal or back in India" (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 8/1). He added that the "high rates of HIV we have documented support concerns that sex trafficking may be a significant factor in both maintaining the HIV epidemic in India and in the expansion of this epidemic to its lower-prevalence neighbors" (Reuters, 7/31). Mendoza called the study "very important," adding, "It's the first I know of that linked HIV to sex-trafficked girls." According to Silverman, the problem is emerging in other parts of the world. Girls from China's Yunnan province trafficked to Southeast Asia, Iraqi girls from Syrian and Jordanian refugee camps and Afghan girls trafficked to Iran or Pakistan appear to experience the same circumstances as the study participants and likely are contributing to the spread of HIV in southern China, Afghanistan and elsewhere, Silverman said. "Most authorities fighting human trafficking don't see it as having anything to do with HIV," he said, adding, "It is just not being documented" (New York Times, 7/31).

The abstract of the study is available online.

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Nicaraguan Group Launches HIV/AIDS Awareness Campaign

[Aug 01, 2007]

Arely Cano, president of the Nicaraguan HIV/AIDS association, on Monday announced that the group plans to launch a new campaign to fight the disease in the country, Xinhua/People's Daily reports. The campaign aims to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in Nicaragua and mobilize people to undergo testing and practice safe sex. Cano said results of a study showed that people living with HIV/AIDS in Nicaragua are calling for more employment and more commitment from the government and educators to address the problem.

"Young women are the most affected" by HIV/AIDS, Cano said, adding, "Men tell women that if they have AIDS, it is the woman who gave it to him, or that it is proof she has been with another man. This violates women's rights." The study said that male infidelity is the most likely route of HIV transmission to women. According to the association, there are 18,000 to 20,000 HIV-positive people living in Nicaragua and 2,754 people living with AIDS (Xinhua/People's Daily, 7/31).

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Doctors in Kyrgyzstan Fired, Reprimanded for Accidentally Infecting 10 Children, One Adult With HIV, Health Ministry Says

[Aug 01, 2007]

Four Kyrgyz physicians were fired on Monday for accidentally infecting 10 children and one adult with HIV, according to the Republican AIDS Association, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports. Ministry of Health officials said the children and the adult contracted HIV while receiving injections and blood transfusions. The health ministry gave no other details, according to the AP/Herald Tribune.

According to RAA, Health Minister Tuygunaaly Abdraimov fired the head of the southern Osh region's children's hospital, the chiefs of the epidemic control center and the regional blood transfusion center, and a district hospital chief. Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev on Monday told the chief prosecutor's office "to bring those responsible to account," his office said (AP/International Herald Tribune, 7/30). According to AFP/Yahoo! News, two other doctors were reprimanded (AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/30).

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Across The Nation

Hispanic, Black Men More Likely To Contract HIV From Drug Use, Related Risky Behavior, According to Findings Presented at Conference

[Aug 01, 2007]

Hispanic and black men are more likely than others to become HIV-positive through injection drug use and other risky behaviors related to any type of drug use, Rhonda Hagler, medical director of the New Jersey-based HIV/AIDS clinic Proceed, told participants at the 2007 National Conference on Latinos and AIDS on Monday, the Miami Herald reports. Hagler said, "Drugs, whether you inject them, inhale them or take them orally, alter your judgment and put you at risk for HIV."

According to a 2004 CDC survey, Hispanic and black men are nearly three times as likely as white non-Hispanic men and nearly twice as likely as Asian-Americans to contract the virus from sharing needles.

Hispanic and black women, on the other hand, are less likely than white non-Hispanic and Asian women to become HIV-positive through injection drug use. In addition, Hispanics are 43% more likely to be diagnosed with HIV/AIDS during the disease's late stages, compared with 37% of non-Hispanic whites, according to a 2006 CDC report. The report also found that 45% of Hispanics have been tested for HIV/AIDS, compared with 54% of non-Hispanic whites.

Jose Moreno, professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said in a Herald interview, "My patients with HIV have a higher viral load because they've been infected for a long time and don't have the resources to see a doctor." He added, "Some of them may be illegal, and they're afraid of being deported."

Hagler said that HIV-positive individuals who use drugs have higher suicide rates; a quicker progression from HIV to AIDS; and complications from combining prescription drugs with illegal substances (Tasker, Miami Herald, 7/31).

Additional Conference Information

The conference aims to increase HIV/AIDS awareness among Hispanics and includes presentations from local and national health officials about prevention, statistics and overall impact of federal and state policy (Miami Herald, 7/30). Over two days, conference participants are expected to discuss Hispanics' lack of access to medical care and undocumented immigrants' awareness of HIV/AIDS (Miami Herald, 7/29). Actress Rosie Perez spoke at the conference Monday, saying, "We get tired and frustrated from the apathy there is on this subject," adding, "We must re-commit every morning. We're brothers and sisters in this fight" (Miami Herald, 7/31).

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